“Chik-Fil-A”

I need to tell you a story about some chicken……

It also has to do with my daughter.   She started college a “few years back” and discovered that she didn’t want to do what she thought she did.   So she stepped back from school and took some time to figure “things” out.   And it wasn’t an easy figuring out.   But she did.  

And the last couple of months of her college life were spent with school but also still working in the pharamacy at the hospital.   Now, if you had asked me 10 years ago, what “in the pharmacy” meant, I would have said a nice calm filling prescriptions.   And that would be part right.   But the other part was a lot different.  It was being in the ICU or in the ER and being ready to bring the supplies and the pharmacists and doctors call for because they need it right now.   Not in 5 minutes, but now.  So the motorcycle accident that comes in on aeromed – they need to be ready for it.  The car accident where they get an adult and three kids and that’s only half of the people involved in the accident.   Oh and guess what?   The ER was also getting a LOT of the local Covid cases.   I asked her once and she basically said that it’s sort of like a series of circles.   The closest circle is the front line – it’s the doctors, the PA’s, the ones on the front line who are making the decisions that will change the outcome of the case and the life of that patient.   The first row behind them is the pharmacists, the RN’s etc. who are following the orders and making sure that things happen so that what the doctor wants can happen.  Any kind of test, drug, picture etc. that’s needed, they get it done – and the 2nd row are the ones who support the people who need to get things done.   Doc says, “patient needs _____ of _______.  The pharmacist counts on the pharmacy techs to get them the medicine they need to make it happen.

So, she was going to school, while working and working in an environment that wasnt always stressful but definitely had it’s times.  And then there’s the risk of Covid at work and the risk that you could get it and that you could take it home to where your Dad and your younger sister are both at “high risk” of getting a bad case of it,if they get it.  And she graduates – but doesn’t really graduate because graduations for the class of 2020 are currently scheduled for October 10, 2020 but she’s not holding her breath.  She got her diploma, she passed her board exams and today we helped her move down to Ohio – where she will be working at one of the top children’s hospitals in the country (you can analyze them 6 ways from Sunday and it’s still a really good place).  What’s she going to be doing?   I believe the title is a pediatric cardiatric sonographer.  What’s that?  That means she will be taking pictures of kids hearts so their doctors can help them get better.   Why did she pick this?  In part because ½ of her family that is older than her are in the medical field.   But more because of her youngest sister, Abby, who has been battling a heart condition, well, we’ve known about it since she was 12.

Jumping back to tonight, her mom, Emily and I are working on getting things set up for her new place in a new state and a new town and decide to get supper.   It was pretty easy to decide – Chik-Fil-A.   If they don’t have “In and Out” burgers, then it’s Chik-Fil-A.   

We pulled up and I was seriously questioning the wisdom of going there.   I was hungry and the line for the drive thru went around the restaurant 3 times (or so it seemed.)  They had a guy out directing traffic and showing people which line to get into.   They had people taking orders, they had people collecting money, they had people delivering food and it was the most insanely fascinating view of teamwork I’ve ever seen.   And we were through the drive thru in maybe just over 10 minutes!   I was blown away by the organization, the team work and the smiles.   They obviously knew they were doing something more than the rest of the fast food world was and it was an opporunity to make someone else’s day a little bit brighter and showing some determination when there struggles making it harder.

So, whether you are trying to balance school during Covid induced screwy schedules or you are trying to make someone’s day just a little better, or you want to reach out and help someone who is really hurting, think about the college kid who is zipping around the parking lot making sure people get their chicken, oh and don’t forget the young woman who moved 5 hours away from her family to make a difference in the lives of little kids.

And then ask yourself, what can you do to lighten someone else’s load in these crazy times.

Thanks for joining in,

Tom

P.S.  The chicken was good

Mediocre White Men……

Let me build the “surroundings” for you.

This is another incident that happened in the drama that Oprah Winfrey produced called “Queen Sugar.” It is a drama that is written from the standpoint of people of color in Louisiana and the struggles they have. It is surprisingly adept at pulling you into the lives and feelings and reactions of the people involved in it.

And as far as I can tell the story of “Queen Sugar” pulls no punches. It’s pretty adept and raw and painful to watch. But at the same time, it makes you realize that there’s a part of world that is a LOT different than what you are used to. A lot different than your middle class white suburban bubble. A lot different then the middle class suburb I live in. Not all that much different than the lives of some of the people I go to church with – except they probably don’t farm sugar cane.

Anyway, back to the happenings “last night.” There are two main people involved in this part of the story….. Charley – formerly married to a basketball star, recently divorced after finding out that husband was not faithful, moved back from LA to Louisiana when Dad died and left an 800 acre farm to her and her sister and brother. After Charley’s nasty divorce, she and her teenage son became very strong advocates for those who are the poor, the mis-treated, the abused, the poverty stricken. She sets up a free medical clinic for the migrant farm workers and is in the process of running for City Council because the ”power” white family in town is working behind the scenes and forcing black farmers to sell their land so that they can eventually put a highway, a oil refinery and lots of pollution and at the same time essentially wipe their town off the map – at least in regards to the history and family that made the town of St. Joe what it is. Charley was running for City Council to try to stop the Landry family from achieving their goal of essentially wiping out the town. The Landry family had their son, Jacob, running for City Council against Charley. Jacob is pretty much a Daddy’s boy and will do anything his family says. He also has a thing where he reacts very negatively to any woman who tells him what to do. I think it has to do with the way his mother treated (and still does) him.

Jacob confronted Charley a day or two before they were having a town hall meeting as part of the election. In that confrontation, Jacob pushed Charley and told her to withdraw from the election because he’s been told that he has already won the election and there wasn’t any way she would win, so he told her she should “save face” and withdraw from the election.

Her response?

“The arrogance of mediocre white men never ceases to astound me.”

Now do me a favor. Don’t react to that statement yet. Instead, take a few minutes and look at what you know about the people in government, your local government, state government and national government. Based on what you know about them and what you’ve heard about them, does it sound like she might be right?

How does Jacob respond? He does not disagree with her, no he actually says that she’s right. But then he says,

“It’s not arrogance, it’s power.”

Ouch. The obviously mediocre white guy is saying, we’re arrogant, but not because we’re good, it’s because we have power. That’s it.

Ouch.

The power of the mediocre white man shows itself in many ways. It is a huge part of why racism is still an issue.

And I spent 20 years working in an industry that was full of mediocre white men who were arrogant and had the power to determine the make up of cities and neighborhoods and more.

We’ll be talking about that more in the future

Tom

What have YOU learned from Charlottesville?

I wrote this 3 years ago tonight after a worship service/prayer service/time of lament at my church, Madison Square in Grand Rapids.

The Things My Church Taught Me about Charlottesville

AUGUST 14, 2017~ TOM VANDERWELL

If you have been following my writing at all, you know that I attend a multi-cultural church in Grand Rapids. It’s called Madison Square Church because 103 years ago when it was founded, the area was already known as, you guessed it, Madison Square.

We had a prayer service tonight and it was open to not only people from our three campuses but the neighborhood and other churches as well. The goal was to gather Christians in Grand Rapids for a time to pray and work through what happened, what it means and what do we do now.

I’d say that it was a resounding success on those fronts. Did it solve Charlottesville’s problems? Not by a long shot.

But I learned a number of things tonight about Charlottesville, about the church and about the future. In random order……
1. While many people don’t want to admit it, the “open” atmosphere that the political scene has brought has given many “fringe” white people the perceived “okay” to bring out their anger. Does that mean there is more racism now than there was 10 years ago? Not necessarily, but it means that there are more people who feel it is okay to be hateful towards “those” people in open and threatening manners than there were 10 to 15 to 20 years ago. (More on that later)

2. That anger is sin and like all types of sin, the sin of racism pervades our entire world. One of the preachers tonight had ICE make a raid on his house with the perceived intention being to send him “back” to wherever “there” was. He’s a US citizen, so while it shook him, it didn’t impact him like it has others.

3. In some areas, the sin of racism is overt (like Charlottesville this weekend) and in others (like Grand Rapids most of the time) it is more covert and hard to see, but it’s still there.

4. Prayer is good. Prayer is important. But prayer is not enough.

5. God calls us to do more. To do more than pray. He wants us to pray. He wants to hear from us. But sitting at home in our nice comfortable homes while the world is burning around us is not acceptable to Him.

6. Some churches are more in tuned to the type of service that God is calling for in today’s environment. Some are very comfortable and are more comfortable to “just pray” about the ugly things in this world. Others are much closer to the “let’s get dirty and help other.” Some are already knee deep in the dirt that comes from God’s call to serve the “least of these” whether they are in Grand Rapids, Los Angeles, Iraq or Charlottesville.

7. Especially in situations like this and with “wake up calls” like this, God’s people are not serving the least as much as they should. You remember reading about the Last Supper on the night Jesus was betrayed? What did Jesus do? He washed all of his disciples feet.

He washed All of his disciples FEET. That means he washed the tops, the bottoms and all of the really smelly and infected and dirty parts.

He washed All of his Disciples feet. 12 sets of feet. Jesus knew that time was running very short until Judas was going to betray him. But he still washed Judas’ feet too.

God isn’t only asking us to care for the wealthy highly educated immigrants, He wants us to take care of those who live in refugee camps and don’t have anything, quite literally.

8. Does God say it’s going to be easy? Not a chance. But God says it’s right. God says in many places in the Bible that it is a mandate for His people to love our neighbors – even if our neighbors are different than we are.

I said earlier that I would get back to the open atmosphere that many are believing the political atmosphere and the campaigns and tweets and the like have paved the way for many angry fringe white people to feel like they can finally stand up and speak their twisted, warped viewpoints. Personally, I think a pretty strong case can be made for that view.

There is an author and pastor who I have quoted before by the name of John Pavlovitz. He wrote a piece on his blog where essentially he says to those who voted for Trump, “I believe you when you say you voted for Trump because of his business sense.” “I believe you when you say you voted for Trump because he’s a Washington Outsider.” “I believe you when you say you voted for Trump because he is going to drain the swamp and clean up Washington.”

I don’t believe that you voted for Trump because he says _______ about women and he does __________ and he believes it is okay to ____________ and he chose avowed racists for his advisors. So, unless you want me to believe you support those choices, stand up against those things. Stand up against his racist choices, stand up against the way he treats women……..

Then I will truly believe that is not why you voted for Trump.

I don’t have a copy of it with me, so google him and look it up. It raises a lot of questions about the people who voted for our current president and why they did.

But tonight, I learned that we need to pray for those who are our leaders, even if we don’t like what or how they lead. I knew it but it’s good to be reminded.

May we all go out and help our neighbors more, be more open to those who don’t look like us and serve others and shine God’s love where it’s currently dark.

That’s what my church taught me tonight.

Thank you, Brad, Erik, Joy, Darrell, Susie, Dave, Ricardo, Jermale, Laura, Attah – and I’m sure there were many more. You blessed us again tonight…..

Tom

These are…..

‘These are the times that try men’s souls…..” by Thomas Paine, written during the Revolutionary War.

I remember, after 9/11/2001, hearing people say that then as well. I think both of them, while dramatically different can lay claim to that statement.

And I think that the time we are currently in is exponentially more confusing, grief stricken (just look at the body count). We have three different, radically different, challenges that are taking root in our systems and our struggles today:

  • We have the pandemic struggle. While it is confusing and scary, it’s also fascinating watching the CDC and other hospitals and organizations around the world who are attempting to solve this puzzle and do so as fast as possible without making things worse. Doctors are caring for patients and literally having to change treatment plans when there is something new that is still being discovered. It’s dangerous, it is literally exhausting, it’s emotionally draining and it’s absolutely necessary because with out these medical leaders who are on the front lines, the number of deaths because of Covid19 would be exponentially higher. As one of the leaders at the CDC said (I’m paraphrasing), “We have trained and prepared and studied and researched our entire working lives for this day. We have done so hoping against hope that it never comes. It’s here.”
  • We have the racism struggle. Racism is nothing new, it’s been around here longer than the United States has. But it has changed. The environment has changed. No, I’m not talking about the environment in terms of the ozone layer and the greenhouse gasses. I’m talking about the fact that acts of racism are much more open and bold and prevalent in our society than they have been for quite some time. Unnecessary police shootings that happen predominantly to people of color. The school to prison pipeline. It’s all happening, and it’s all right in front of us. And the ways it is happening might be slightly different but the end result is still the same.
  • Politics – I have two past customers and a high school classmate who are all in elected offices right now – one in Lansing at the State Level and two in Washington. I wish I could say I’m proud to say I know them but there’s one that really bothers me right now. Let me attempt to explain:
    • When you are deciding who to support in a run for office – whether it be local, state or federal government, there are two main things that most people look at:
      • Personal – how do they live their personal life? Are they someone who has integrity, sticks to what they believe, cares for others and is someone you can be proud of?
      • And then there are the politics – are they going to follow the party line? Are they going to say that they agree with the “big guy” just to get the good committee assignments? Or are they going to stand for what their personal lives show(ed) was important to them? Or are they going to vote the party line and get a tax break for some company to build a factory in Mississippi that will bring back 1000 jobs from the Chinese?
    • When you are voting, you basically have to analyze it all and come up with one of three answers:

    1. The personal life of the person I’m voting for, their integrity, their values, those are more important to me than whether I agree with him on tax reform or on raising the taxes on the rich or abortion or ……
    2. I have these three issues – taxes, pro-life and education reform. I don’t care about what my “guy” did 20 years ago, I don’t care about what is happening in Mexico, my guy is doing what I think needs to be done. So what if he did a few bad things before. Haven’t we all? No, really? You’ve never done anything that could have gotten you arrested? Hah……
    3. Somewhere in between. I don’t like that my guy voted for the Iran Trade Deal (just an example) and I don’t like that he’s been ________________ (fill in the blank with your own thoughts). But here’s what I know. He’s pretty much a good guy (at least based on what people I can trust say) and he’s going to get me cheaper health insurance and lower taxes.

Can you vote for someone who disagrees with you on economic issues? Can you vote for someone who disagrees with you on human rights and the United States role as a driving force of good in the world? Can you vote for someone who has a different view on immigration than you do?

There are a lot of things going on. A great big lot of things. And the results of the coming elections are really important. Important to the financial and economic health of our country. But also important to the moral fiber of the way our country treats others and the way we take our role in the world – either seriously or otherwise.

This won’t be the last time I talk about this, but I think you’ll find that “these are the times that try men’s souls” and so we need to think things through and we all need to do our part. What prompted me to write this today? Well, Dr. Seuss did:

Stay tuned…….

Tom

Hard

“It’s Hard…..”

“It’s Hard to Stare at the Pain
But it’s harder to pretend like the pain isn’t even there.”

That quote comes from one of the main characters in Oprah Winfrey’s TV Show, “Queen Sugar.” I’m sorry that I don’t remember who said that – I was too busy scribbling it down so I could share it on here.

Let’s take a look at what they said and how it can apply to what we might be going through:

“It’s hard to stare at the pain…..”

When I look at the things that have happened in my life
• medical problems from brain surgery in January of 2018 that are still causing substantial difficulties (or differences – depending on the day) and will be until the good Lord decides to grant a miracle. (Want to know more, Google AVM – Arterio-Venous Malformation).
• It has been 2 years and 4 months since my Dad passed away.
• ………

I’m not going to go into more of mine right now – but let’s look at some of the things on the national and international scale:
• How many families all over the world are dealing with the loss of a loved one to CoVid19?
• How many children all over the world are struggling because school – in many places and for many kids – was the foundation that they could count on. I saw it when I was substitute teaching – you could tell some kids were so much more secure at school than it appeared to be at home?
• How many of our brown and black neighbors have seen a rise in discrimination because the “other fringe” seems to think that the resident of the White House approves of it?
• How many people have loved ones fighting this disease — either in their own families or because they are on the front line of caring for the people who are sick and fighting CoVid?
• George Floyd
• _____________(fill in the names of recent victims of police shootings.)
• How many times have people argued over wearing masks while carrying rifles?
• How many times has Dr. Faucci had to go in front of the media and correct things that our government says are true?

And I could go on and on and on. It’s really hard.

It’s really hard to stare at the pain. Really really hard. Hard enough that people who know way more than I do are anticipating a growing mental health crisis in our country.

It’s really hard.

But

But it’s harder to pretend like the pain isn’t even there.”

“Ignore it and it will go away.” That might work for a stubbed toe or a skinned knee, but that doesn’t work for pandemics and hate crimes and police shootings and……….

“It’s harder to pretend like the pain isn’t even there.”

Don’t put it in the closet.

Don’t hide it under the rug.

Don’t put on a smiley face because that’s what people want.

Personal note – Due to the Covid 19 and my increased risk if I got it, you probably haven’t actually seen me in a while. I’m being a bit of a hermit because the medical issues I already have, if they combined with CoVid would be kind of nasty.

But you know what, if you ran into me at the grocery store (hypothetically speaking) – or let’s say we were talking online in a Zoom call, it would be the exact opposite. It would be easy for you to pretend like my pain isn’t there. I really don’t look that much different than 2 or 3 years ago (not that much) and so it would seem to be easier to pretend like the pain isn’t even there.

Until, until I try to pick up my ice tea with my left hand and the nerve tremors make me have to switch hands so my computer doesn’t get flooded.

Until I try to lead a discussion on ___________ (pick the subject) and 15 minutes into it, my voice gets quieter and quieter and I start coughing more and…….

It’s harder for me to pretend like the pain isn’t there. Because then I’m forcing myself into a position where I have to do and say and be the same things I was before the surgery. And I can’t.

It’s harder for you to pretend the pain isn’t there, because you know it is.

It’s harder to pretend like the pain isn’t there when you see it all around you.

It’s harder to pretend like the pain isn’t there when the deacons at your church ask for more donations because more people at your church lost their jobs and need help.

It’s harder to pretend like the pain isn’t there.

And there’s so much “hard” going on right now that more of us should be seeking the help of professionals to help us figure out how to work through the “hard.”

Because they know it’s hard to stare at the pain

And

They know it’s harder to pretend it isn’t there.

I know, I have and continue to have someone in my corner helping me navigate the hard.

I hope that you at least ask yourself, “Should I talk to someone about getting through all of this?”

It could be a life saver.

Tom